Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Betty's reading room ,
Tingwall - Mainland Orkney

Tingwall is a place up north in the Orkney Islands - maybe the Greek Pytheas himself was there around  325 BC, looking for Ultima Thule and the Hyperboreans.

Trees are already scarce on this northern soil, the hillsides and flatlands covered by grass and sheep pasture; it takes several hours by ferry or road to reach some little town, and even that will be a quite peripheral one. Lively culture happens far away.

Tingwall, on Mainland Orkney

The main income sources are fisheries and sheep farming for wool (famous sweaters !). Nights are long, Winter never ends. When the Sun shows up, everything is inundated with a magic, splendid light, blue and green glittering for a moment, and then it's over.

The Orkneys are dream islands, with mysterious little towns like stone ghosts in the mist - Kirkwall, Stromness* - and amazing megalithic alignments - the Brodgar complex. Those who live there know what loneliness is.

Maybe that's why many left to explore North America, especially aboard the ships of the Hudson Bay Co., the fur company, which recruited sailors here and had an asset warehouse since 1702 until the beginning of the 20th century.

This is the place where Betty's Reading Room happened :

In nowhere land, away from everything, less than half a dozen scattered houses and a docking jetty for the ferry, someone who is very fond of books decided to offer a little house - a stone cabin - as reading room, in honour of a dear friend deceased.

This Reading Room alone makes me wish to pack and sail away to the Orkney mists.

It might contain just airport literature; but in there are some Salman Rushdie, Umberto Eco, Graham Greene, Oscar Wilde, Hemingway, Dickens, ... 

"The truth has never been of any real value to any human being—it is a symbol for mathematicians and philosophers to pursue. In human relations kindness and lies are worth a thousand truths."

Graham Greene, Heart of the Matter

The cabin was once part of a small farm by the pier. There lived Betty Prictor, a teacher in love with books and literature.

Some friends, wishing to preserve her memory and legacy, opened the Reading Room in 2012, a cosy welcoming space, warm in Winter, where anyone can sit reading while waiting for the ferry - it is sometimes a long wait.

And you can take the book home to finish.
Just - ‘Please return – eventually.

'Tingwall' is a name of  Viking origin, Thingvöl­lr, meaning "assembly field". In the Orkneyinga saga there is a reference to Viking Parliament reunion here in 1174.

Europe? THIS is my Europe.

*See about Stromness here.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Fugloy, a small and isolated island, one of the Faroes.

Fugloy is the 'last' of the Faroe, a tiny island of steep cliffs lost in the North Atlantic.
An almost perfect Ultima Thule...

Fugloy (Danish Fuglø) is the eastern-most island in the Faroe Islands. Being small, isolated and distant, it is has been losing population in recent years.

A heart-shaped island with a central hilltop and high cliffs in the north and east sides. No trees on the hillsides and plateaus - all the land is covered with grass.

Coordinates: 62°20′ N, 6°18′ W
Population: ~ 40
Area : 11 Km2

The name means bird island, and refers to the large number of birds that nest on the island's cliffs.

The ferry 'Ritan' approaching Fugloy with the Eystfelly cliffs in background.



Two villages - Kirkja and Hattarvík - make up Fugloy municipality. According to the legend, the island was settled in Viking times.

The road between Kirkja and Hattarvick

In the Hundabrævið, written around 1350, the two villages are already mentioned, as also in some legends about pirates, dated by historians around 1400.

Farming is still the main source of income. In Hattarvík there are five farms, at Kirkja there are two. The farms run a total of some 800 sheep, mostly for wool production.

Kirkja, on the south-coast

Some 30 houses and a church overlooking the sea on a green hillside make for a charming village.

'Kirkja' means church; in 1933 a new church was built in Kirkja.

Kirkja offers one of the most beautiful panoramas in the Faroes.

Replacing the old church, this new temple was built in 1933

The altarpiece was painted by Sámal Joensen-Mikenes, the most famous faroese artist.

Kirkja and Hattarvík are connected by ferry to Hvannasund, on the larger island of Viðoy, to the west.

Since the 90's, the island can also be reached by helicopter either from the national airport in Vágar, or from the national capital Tórshavn.

'Atlantic Airways' flies regularly to the port at Hattarvick

See a video from flight:

Hattarvík on the east-coast.

Coordinates:  62°19′ N, 6°16′ W
Population:   10-20

Hattarvik was founded in 900. Some old stone-houses are said to relate to "Flokksmenn", three strong men who wanted to seize the power of the Faroe Islands in the 15th century.

The unfriendly harbour's boat-house, on top a a steep stone slope

The church was built in 1899. A red-roofed church staring out across the Atlantic surf, it has a cosy unusual interior in blue and white.

Hattarvik is reachable by ferry from Hvannasund and also by a helicopter 3 times a week.

The ferry ' Ritan'

Both villages can accomodate visitors in small guest-houses.

Eystfelli cliffs

This vertical rock wall, 448m high, is located on the east coast.

Nearby there is also this unique lighthouse:

Fugloy Lighthouse

This incredible lighthouse at Bispen (Stapin, see map) painted white with a red horizontal band is perched on a ledge of a cliff roughly 425 m high; it is accessed only by a series of ladders bolted to the bare rock !

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Uelen, in the far-east arctic Siberia - a presentation

I once posted here abour Uelen.
Now, a much better powerpoint presentation :

Uelen, far-east arctic Siberia

More PowerPoint presentations from Mário Gonçalves